Democrat and Independent Thinker..."The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." -Nietzsche

Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why I am not an atheist

I am not an atheist because I am not arrogant enough to think that I am so wise as to know that God does not exist.

Ever since I posted on Pascal's Gambit (or Wager) I have found numerous references to it in forums and on blogs, etc. Usually it is being used by atheists in various ways, always claiming it to be fallacious or easily refutable or otherwise faulty. However, in order to do so, they invariably change Pascal's assumptions to suit their purpose and then declare "Eureka! Wager disproved!"

It doesn't work that way, folks.

For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.

However, you can think of it this way:

If you believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are infinite.

If you believe in God, and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are nil.

If you do not believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God still does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are still infinite.

If you do not believe in God and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are still nil.

Either way, the odds are always in favor of the House (or God), because our belief or non-belief in him has no bearing whatsoever on his existence or non-existence. If he exists, he holds all the cards.

If you are turned off, or disillusioned by the Christian God concept because of fundamentalists or whatever, that's fine. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what form of God we're talking about here. An active, prescient God who directs us all in everything we do. An inactive, detached God who set everything in motion and then disengaged. A good God who has a nifty little heaven set up for all believers and a nasty little hell set up for all non-believers. A God who transforms us into another reincarnated being after death. A God who does nothing whatsoever with us once our time here on earth is finished.

IT JUST DOES NOT MATTER, PEOPLE. Whatever you think, whatever you believe, whatever you've been taught, whatever you've read, whatever you've envisioned or prophetized or proselytized, it JUST DOES NOT MATTER.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? You, me, the preacher, the priest, the rabbi, the master, the bodisattva... we are all just little bitty human beings running around on a teeny tiny planet in a gi-normous, unending Universe and it does not matter what we believe.

We don't know that there is not a God. We don't know that there is a God. God doesn't flicker on and off like a neon light depending on what one little human is thinking one second as compared to what another little human is thinking the next second.

God either exists or not. What we think has no bearing on his existence. Just because you imagine there is a God does not make God materialize. Just because you think there is no God does not make God disappear.

If there is a God, when you die, God will do with you whatever he will.
If there is no God, when you die, then nothing will happen.

I've studied Buddhism pretty extensively, and the problem I have with reincarnation is that something has to set that in motion which means that there would have to be a God. And, if there is a God, then he may or may not reincarnate you because it will be his choice what to do and he will do as he will. So, you can have no true assurance of reincarnation.

No matter how well educated you may be, or how intelligent, or how knowledgeble, you, my friend, are not all-knowing.

You can feel self-assured all you want, but you can have no assurance of anything except that one day you will die and on that day, and not until that day, you will know the truth.

13 comments:

Thad said...

It is worth pointing out that Pascal's Wager does not try to prove that God exists. Instead it tries to show the 'profitability' of believing in God. Refuting this argument just shows that this argument does not show belief in God to be 'profitable.'

I have one other quick comment about something you mentioned in your post

“...they invariably change Pascal's assumptions to suit their purpose and then declare 'Eureka! Wager disproved!'.”

However, if one is able to show a key premise of an argument is false, it does show the argument to be unsound.

Pascal's Wager assumes:

The world has only two 'divine possibilities.'
1) A God who rewards belief in God
2) no God

Independent of whatever actually exists, there are many other logically possible 'divine possibilities.' To show that this assumption of Pascal's Wager is false I provided a counter example to it in my post. The counter example is:

Here are three 'divine possibilities'
1) A God who rewards belief in God
2) no God
3) A cruel deity

Unless there is a contraction in the concept of a cruel deity (making it impossible), this shows the above assumption of Pascal's Wager to be false and Pascal's Wager unsound as a result.

By claiming that we don't know how God will judge someone when they die actually points out the same false assumption in Pascal's Wager. We don't know that the only two possibility are:

1) A God who Rewards Belief in God
2) no God

We could have a God which does something else. If this is the case pascal's Wager doesn't follow. There is no “advantage” to belief in God

If one believes in God
-- God does something
---- God exist
-- nothing happens
---- God doesn't exist
If one doesn't believe in God
-- God does something
---- God exists
-- nothing happens
---- God doesn't exist

whig said...

There is a point of view that God tests us, and demands obedience even to that which goes against our own conscience, and rewards those who are obedient. There is another point of view that by demonstrating our willingness to obey even against our own conscience, God reveals himself to us in the aspect of the Devil. Be careful who or what you obey. Judge the tree by the fruit, and avoid being misled by following your conscience.

Rick @ shrimp and grits said...

For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.


I think you're probably missing the point of the criticisms of Pascal's Wager - which is that the assumptions *themselves* are flawed.

What if I said this:
"Assume that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Also assume that Saddam wants to use them to attack the US. Therefore, we must attack Saddam in Iraq before he attacks us, and the Iraq war is thus justified."

How would you then prove that the war in Iraq was unjustified? By showing that one or more of my assumptions was invalid.

The weak point of the Wager was that it considered there to be only one religion/God, not loads of mutually incompatible religions/gods. (Would you go to heaven - according to the Bible - for believing in and worshiping Ba'al?)

Believe in no god, one god or many gods as you wish, but not because of the Wager. It doesn't help one way or the other.

BlueKat said...

Thanks for the comments, folks, but y'all are starting to get on my nerves.

E = MC2 (squared)

A mathematical equation that has been proven. (See "atom bomb".)

Now, let's change E (energy) to, oh I dunno, B (for baloney).

B = MC2 (squared)

Not so valid anymore, huh?

Blaise Pascal was a genius mathematician and philosopher.

Y'all ain't. I ain't. Give it up.

Rick @ shrimp and grits said...

We were merely trying to explain to you some of the reasons why Pascal's Wager is unsatisfying as a reason to believe. If you don't find the criticisms of Pascal's assumptions convincing, well ... we can agree to disagree.

However, I couldn't let this pass:

Blaise Pascal was a genius mathematician and philosopher.
Y'all ain't. I ain't. Give it up.


That's irrelevant. Aristotle, too, was quite a brilliant philosopher - but that doesn't mean that every idea he expressed was correct. In particular, I don't think Aristotle's justifications of slavery and his idea that women should not participate in politics would gain much traction with you. (They certainly don't with me!)

Pascal's Wager, like any other argument, must be evaluated on its own merits - not merely by the name attached to it.

BlueKat said...

Thanks, Rick. I know what you were trying to explain to me and I've been trying to explain why I reject it. You cannot reject a mathematical equation, a posit on game theory, based on philosophical disagreement. Pascal's assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven. You can intellectually preface any assumption with "If", if doing so makes you more comfortable examining the equation on its merit. For example, in the equation E=MC2, you can preface with "If" E equals Energy then E=MC2.

"If" E equals Inertia, then E=MC2 is then invalid.

So, "If" God equals "Good God who rewards believers with heaven" then Pascal's Gambit stands and is, quite simply, irrefutable.

"If" God equals "Evil God who sends believers to hell" or "Easter Bunny" or "Bart Simpson", then, of course, Pascal's Gambit is nonsense.

You cannot change the "If", the basic assumption, and then claim that you have refuted the equation that Pascal posited. That is nonsense.

As for whether it is a good reason to believe or not is like saying "My personal belief system does not allow me to accept that energy is actually energy. I choose to believe that energy is moondust. Therefore, E=MC2 is invalid to me and there is no reason for me to believe it is valid."

Math is math and philosophy is philosophy and rarely do the twain meet except in a mind like Blaise Pascal. But, just because they met in his mind does not invalidate his posit on Game Theory. It wasn't a philosophical "idea", it is a logical equation.

Personally, I think he was half mad and I certainly wouldn't believe everything he believed just because he believed it, no more than I would with anyone else who ever existed on this planet.

What makes me crazy is illogical arguments being used to claim refutation over one of the most pristine logical arguments I've ever encountered.

Again, I state that it doesn't matter whether anyone on Earth believes in God based on Pascal's Gambit or a mythology or a personal belief system because "if" there is a God, then God wouldn't be God if it did matter one whit what any human thought or believed.

So, in my opinion, the Gambit is as good a reason to believe as any other, if you choose to believe in a "good" God. If you choose to envision some other type of God, then no matter. Either way, God is and will be whatever God is and what we envision matters not.

BlueKat said...

Anyway, just to expound a little more on how valid the equation is, let's take the whole panopolies of possibilities of what God may or may not be, etc. out of the equation and see if the "odds" are still with the believers:

If I believe God exists, and when I die, I find God exists, then I will be right and so very pleased with myself.

If I believe God does not exist, and when I die, I find God exists, then I will be wrong (and possibly disappointed with myself!)

If I believe God exists, and when I die, God doesn't exist, then neither will I anymore so I won't be able to care.

If I believe God does not exist, and when I die, God doesn't exist, then neither will I anymore so I won't be able to care.

There you go, guys. Refute away!

God, I love to be right. Hee.

Rick @ shrimp and grits said...

Out of curiosity, do you find this argument convincing? Why or why not?

BlueKat said...

It's the same equation, just with different values assigned to the properties.

The logic holds. That's the point. You can substitute Santa Claus and toys or lumps of coal and the logic will still hold.

That doesn't mean you have to believe in Santa Claus or Cthulhu, but if you choose to, then this argument is as good as reason to as anything else. At least, it's logical.

However, you can't say that just because you don't believe in Santa Claus or Cthulhu or God, and you think the whole concept of either absurd, means that you have defeated the logic of the argument.

And, you can't say that just because you can assign different values to the properties, the argument (=equation) falls, because it doesn't. The logic still holds.

Rick @ shrimp and grits said...

However, you can't say that just because you don't believe in Santa Claus or Cthulhu or God, and you think the whole concept of either absurd, means that you have defeated the logic of the argument.

Didn't I say (10:41 AM) that the problem with Pascal's Wager was not so much the "logic" ... but the flawed assumptions that go into the wager? You do not believe in Cthulu despite the existence of Cthulu's Wager. Perhaps that has something to do with your assessment of the assumptions that go into it?

(Incidentally, while looking for a link to Cthulu's Wager, I happened across Sam Harris discussing Pascal's Wager in Newsweek. Probably worth a look.)

BlueKat said...

Neither Pascal's assumption nor those assumptions Cthulu's wager can be fairly characterized as "flawed" for they are what they are and they are clearly stated.

But, as I stated, a person may make a choice to agree with the assumption or not. You can choose to think that energy is not energy but moondust.

Belief is a choice. A person can base a belief on any rationale or none at all.

The existence of God cannot be proven and Pascal was not trying to prove the existence of (his) God but provide a rationale for belief in (his) God. He presented odds using decision theory.

You're obviously intelligent, Rick. You know this.

As for the link you provided, it just more of the same I see all over the internet. Religion is the root of all evil blah blah blah. Followed by a lot of posts by those who believe themselves so all-knowing as to be competent to reject the existence of God. I think it's pathetic.

Religion is not the root of all evil. The pursuit of power is what drives evil men. The acquisition of wealth is a path to power. The use of religion by evil men seeking power does not make religion evil any more than a dollar bill is evil. When religion is not used, then nationalism or imperialism has historically been a fine substitute.

Blaming society or institutions of society for the actions of evil men is something we have got to get past. It's long past time for personal accountability.

Euric Hagen Angantyr said...

Pascal's wager does not clearly refute the possibilities of their being many gods, and using his owne system i can prove that Thor, Perun, Mars, or Shiva exist. they are all equally vengeful, theyr religeons are equaly sensible/retarded ie;Christians belive the world to be 6500 years old and there being three tiers to the world heven hell and earth so to does Norse except Norse names heven Asgard, Hell,muspelheim&Hel, and earth Midgard, but atleast Norse is not contradicted by carbon dating nor is their "bible" filled with contradictions that have been MEDIATED by the pope or Martin Luther or any number of Bias power hungry oppinionated folk who like all us humans according to the bible are sinners born from sin redeemable only by the mercy of god. Like you, I'm not so presumptious to say whether their is or there is not a god, but you are presumptious enough to decide which is the right god. Like you said before about picking and choosing Pascal's wager and disproving that, you seem to ignore a great deal of his gambit yourself, namely the probability law his work by the way!

Waxy said...

Hi, I thought you might be interested in this. I posted a blog about this problem with logical equations: http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/7ol42/athiest_logic_equivocal_to_theist_logic/Commenter blactstone articulates my (and yours) point very well.